In a previous posting, I had mentioned that when shopping for plants, a Big Box store might not have the “vernacular” of the gardener down pat.

I am going to assume that you all know that a “Big Box” store is one that buys and sells most products in bulk or “Big Boxes”.  Places like Walmart, Samscreen-shot-2016-10-14-at-10-24-47-am‘s, Costco, etc. qualify as Big Box stores.

They almost always have a huge garden center, with tons of plants for sale.  But, like the other sections of the store, the help you get is not always the best.  Looking for a particular kind of screw?  You’re on your own!  Looking for a variety of hosta? Again, you’re on your own!

If you know exactly what you’re looking for, you might do alright.  BUT, if you’re looking for help with choices…you’re in the wrong place.  On rare occasions you might find a competent gardener on the staff, but that IS a rarity.   If you’re looking for colorful annuals, and lots of them, this is a fine place.  BUT, if you intend to purchase a plant that will become a valued part of your garden and landscape, I’d sure go to a local nursery.

When Big Box stores purchase the plants they will sell, we have NO idea from where they come.  The best price may be plants from Florida, or Texas.  They will not have been grown in soil and weather even remotely like ours.  What that means is that when you get the plants into our soil, here in the PNW, the plants may just revolt.  They miss home!  It’s too wet.  It’s too warm.  It’s perhaps too cold. Not enough sun.  You get the idea.

When, on the other hand, you buy locally, most of those plants have been born and bred right here, near Seattle!  (This applies to ANYWHERE you live in the country…you ALL get the same plants from a Big Box Store, no matter WHERE you live!)  Most local nurseries grow their own plant material, or buy from a local “farm”.  They know that if they buy from far away, chances are the plants will not survive.  They can’t risk that, because most of the time they guarantee their plants.

Timg_5597o me that means I would only buy perennials, shrubs and trees from a local nursery.  Annuals I don’t worry about as they only last a season anyway.  IF you are very garden, or plant savvy, you know how to judge a plants health and variety…go for the lower prices in the Big Box Store.  If, however, you’re new at this…pay the little extra, and BUY LOCAL!

12Seattle is expecting a BIG windstorm this weekend!  Get those hanging pots DOWN!!!  Just put them on the ground, or somewhere protected!

This morning, one of the first articles I read on “Crosscut” was titled “To solve water pollution, Seattle turns to an old solution“, written by Samantha Larson.

This is what I’ve been advocating for years.  It is a Rain Garden concept.  Rain Gardens capture water coming from your roof, driveway, sidewalk, etc. and direct it into a garden specifically designed to filter the water, filtering it naturally and sending it into an aquifer, rather than the curb.  As I said in my “old” 2008 Rain Garden post, ” An effective rain garden depends on water infiltrating into the soil of the garden. They are actually miniature, temporary wetlands, planted with native plants.”  Do visit that post and read more.

Here is a sketch of a Rain Garden designed for use in a garden, but it is usable between a curb and the sidewalk with different plant materials.  This does give you an screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-9-03-11-amidea.  (The drawing is from an article done by Texas A&M on Rain Gardens.)

It makes profound sense to have these in our Seattle landscape.  They need not be large, every little bit counts!  Having them all along the curbs where the nasty water runs, is a grand idea!  It may not handle the entire filtration of the run-off, but it will surely do it’s part!!!

The other day I ran into Don and Lynnea in the hallway here at Horizon House.  They want to plant a few new plants, in pots, on their balcony and requested a bit of advice.  I told them I would do a blog about that.  I have found that if someone asks a question, there are others thinking of it as well.


Southern Living Photo

When planting in pots, try to remember “Thriller, Filler and Spiller”.  It will help you set up an attractive planter.

The Thriller is something tall and flashy.  Usually they are placed in the back , if viewed from one side; or in the center of the planting, if you will see it from all sides.  They can be flowering plants, have attractive foliage or maybe be tall grasses.

The Filler is something that is neither tall, nor a ground cover, but rather something that will fill in the center area with color or nice leaves.  They often grow in a rounded manner so they literally fill the center space.  If your thriller is in the back, place your filler between that and where you will put your spiller.  If the thriller is in the middle, surround it with the filler.  Remember to leave room to plant your spillers!

The Spiller is just what it says.  It is something that will spill over the edge of the container, drawing your eye from top to bottom in a graceful way.  Remember again if your thriller is in the back, the spiller should be between the filler and the edge of the pot, so it “spills” over the edge.  If your thriller is in the middle, have a number of spillers all the way around.

Also remember, depending on the size of your pot or container, you can have either 3 plants, or many.  Although generally the Thriller will just be one dramatic plant!  They tend to be larger, so one is often enough. Let your taste prevail!!!!!

You can also use different pots to provide a different spot for one or two of those categories.  One has the thriller, with spillers; another pot with fillers and spillers; etc.  Be creative!


What are some plants that might be appropriate for your container?  When you go to the nursery, just tell them you are looking for “Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers” for your container.  They will know EXACTLY what you mean.  (A big box store may not…)  They can help you by showing you what will work in your particular planter, in your particular climate, with exactly the colors you’re looking for.  That is what they are there for.  Most of them are very knowledgeable.  Don’t be afraid to ask!  They will enjoy showing you what they have to offer.

I could give you lists of some plants, but I think that’s limiting.  Go to the nursery and enjoy a few hours there.  Talk with the staff.  Look at the plants that are available and get a real sense for what they will do for you and YOUR pot.  Then ENJOY!


The canopy cover in Seattle now is about 23%.  What this means is that 23% of our city streets have a lovely canopy of tree branches.  Those of us, fortunate enough to fly in and out of Sea-Tac, see this every time we fly over Seattle. img_5618
Seattle’s goal, established in 2007, is to reach 30% canopy cover in 30 years. The data from the recent study is exciting because it provides critical information about recent canopy changes across the city as well as within different land uses, neighborhoods, and watersheds. This information allows the City to better plan and manage Seattle’s urban forest.” (Quote from Seattle reLeaf)

Aside from just being a pleasant presence, trees provide many benefits to our city environment.  Among those benefits are absorption of carbon dioxide; helping thwart flood water from affecting our streets and gardens; shading buildings thereby lessening the need for air conditioning; the roots help filter rain runoff, refreshing the water going into our streams and waterways; those roots also hold the soil in which they reside; and most certainly it offers relief to all of us in the form of shade!

Here at Horizon House our garden spaces have always had trees, still do.  When we had the reconstruction project that impacted our garden sites over the past year and a half, a number of our trees were removed.  There were a few reasons for that.

  • One was that the trees had actually become root-bound.  They lived in large planters, and eventually over the course of 10 plus years, their roots filled the space.  When that happens the planters can crack.  It also makes it impossible for the gardeners to dig and care for their plants.
  • Another reason was that the planters needed to be cleaned up, relined, and provided with irrigation pipes.

But now, that is all done.  We are awaiting replanting of trees in our spaces.  It is important for that to happen.  Sure, their roots will again fill those planters, but we will have benefited in the meantime.

Earlier this week, HH planned a trip for us, through “Spotlight On Seattle”. img_5605 We visited the Seattle Waterfront, and quite a few viewpoints. img_5615 img_5638img_5644 On the trip we came very close to the area where Seattle suffered a huge “clear cut“.  The folks responsible felt the view was beautiful, and the trees were interfering with their view, so they just cut down the trees!  A VERY BAD IDEA!  They have been sued by the city, as well they should.


Seattle Times

Not only did they destroy the trees, they made the hill on which the trees lived very vulnerable to “slides” since the roots of the trees held the soil during rains.

At any rate, I hope Horizon House remembers all of this when they are choosing to replant our trees.  We need those trees.  The city wants and needs those trees.  The residents here are anxious to have the shade and gentle noises of waving leaves back.


I can’t tell you how many questions I’ve had over the last week about bulbs.  The most prevalent one is, “When can I plant my bulbs?”.  The next is, “If I can’t plant them yet, how do I store them?” 100_0120

Maybe we should start by defining a “bulb”.  The University of Illinois Extension Service defines it this way:  “The definition of a bulb is any plant that stores its complete life cycle in an underground storage structure.”  I have made the link above, because it defines and explains a “bulb” pretty thoroughly!

For our purposes here today, I will only discuss a “true” bulb, like a tulip, daffodil, crocus, etc.  Rhizomes, corms and tubers are also considered “bulbs”, but we will not discuss them today.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-8-26-56-amHere is a drawing of a true bulb that I have taken from that University of Illinois Extension Service web site.  It’s a good description of what we are talking about.  The definition of “tunicate” bulb is one that has a paper like sheath that helps protect it.

As you can see, the leaves, the flower bud, the roots, and even the babies (lateral bulblets) are all there…right in that one structure, as noted in the definition!

It also does a good job of showing you what’s up and what’s down!  The pointy end is the top and the flat end is the bottom.  It isn’t always that the roots are visible yet, but have no fear, they will appear!

Miraculously, if you should happen to plant the bulb upside down, given a few years, it will actually right itself.  That’s hard work, so try to avoid doing that to your bulbs.  You want it’s energy to go into the blooms!!!

When you buy bulbs, you want to look for ones without deep cuts in the tunic.  Those cuts would indicate some pretty severe injury that might impact the growth of the bulb.  It might even produce rot, meaning that your bulb wouldn’t survive in the ground.  Look for a healthy bulb…think of an onion in the grocery store.  I’m sure, like me, you look for onions without soft spots, discoloration and scars.  Do the same with the purchase of bulbs.

Usually nurseries don’t offer bulbs for sale until it’s time for planting, so get them in the ground as soon after you purchase them as possible.  If that’s not possible, store them in the package in which they arrived, or in a paper bag (that breathes), in a cool, dry environment.  Something to remember here is that squirrels, rats, and mice LOVE chomping on bulbs (except for daffodils which they seem to  dislike).  If you “mail order” bulbs, they will always arrive at the proper planting time.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, autumn is warmer than in many areas of the country.  That kind of confuses the element of the timing of planting bulbs.  Where there’s a hard frost, it’s easy, bulbs can be planted right up until you can’t get a shovel into the ground because it’s too hard to dig!  So, how do we handle that here in the PNW?

Remember that when the bulbs go into the ground, they need to establish some growth of those roots.  They need some warmth for that…BUT, you don’t want to plant them when it’s so warm that the leaves will sprout.  Then they may try to bloom in the fall and come spring, when you want to see them…they will already have done their thing.  Sorry, no bloom!  So, your timing should be to plant before threat of a hard frost (when temperatures drop into the 20’s and stay there for a couple of hours), but after any hot weather, which might encourage a growth spurt.  For us, here at Horizon House in downtown Seattle, Washington, that would be about now.  You can hold off a bit if you’d like, but when you’ve got an hour or two free, any time now will be OK.

I think I’ve answered the most pressing questions about bulbs.

I did it!  I jumped for a “garden” here at Horizon House! Actually, it’s a plot that cannot be gardened in the usual sense.  It has roots from a Japanese Maple that we like a lot.  We don’t want to cut out the roots, as we’d lose the tree!  Drucilla, who had that plot, was moved to a place where she could actually dig.  Now, what to do with that useless plot???

Just cover it with mulch?  Why not place some pots there?

We had just cleaned up the three (3) decks so they could be resurfaced, which meant that all the pots sitting on those decks had to be removed.  There was ample time for folks to claim their pots.  I didn’t really want to buy new pots, when all those unclaimed pots were just sitting in the storage room.  So I picked out a few, and pressed them into service!img_5586

Betty had a pot that she was not going to be able to use.  It had some geraniums in it.  I asked if I could use it in my “new garden”.  She consented.  At first I was going to remove the geraniums, but then decided to keep them.  I would lay that container on it’s side, and put the two other pots around it.

Charlie and August helped me bimg_5590y moving heavy pots, and filling them with wonderful new soil.  I trimmed back the geraniums and am hoping they will reach for the sun and begin to grow in that direction.  They will hopefully provide some color.  I planted drought resistant plants (mostly succulents) in all three pots.  I’m hoping they will require very little care, and after they settle in, should look pretty nice!img_5593

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